12059 Nevada City
Grass Valley, CA
Resource Guide for Nevada County, CA
installation, design, and maintenance of your septic system will maximize
your system's life and will prevent failures that can be unsightly, foul-smelling,
and threatening to your health. Proper maintenance lowers the risk of contaminating
your well water, and can save you from costly repairs or replacement.
An inspection of your septic tank may be required by lenders when you refinance
or sell your home. The cost of repair usually falls to the seller.
Maintaining your septic system will save you money in the long term!
Mound System: These systems are used in areas where the site is not suitable
for traditional septic systems. For instance, the soil may have too much
clay to allow the water to seep through at the proper rate, or the water
table may be too close to the ground surface. In these systems, the waste
water flows from the septic tank to a storage tank. The liquid is then
pumped from the tank to perforated plastic pipes buried in a mound of sand
built on the original soil surface. This system provides a layer of suitable
soil thick enough to ensure adequate time and distance for proper treatment
of the waste water. Vegetation growing on the mound helps to evaporate
some of the liquid. This is particularly important in areas with shallow
Signs of Trouble
septic tank has not been pumped out in the past five years. Even if the
system appears to be working well, sludge may have built up to the point
where waste water is released without sufficient time in the tank for treatment
and settling of particles. This situation may result in pollution of groundwater
or cause eventual clogging of the drain field.
wet area or standing water occurs above the drain field. This situation
can develop when sludge particles clog the drain field, when tree roots
or broken pipes keep the waste water from dispersing through the entire
drain field, or when water use in the house regularly exceeds the design
capacity of the system. When these conditions occur, waste water does not
move through the soil as it should, and instead rises to the surface creating
a serious health risk and odor problems.
run slowly or backup: in the worst cases, the basement is flooded with
sewage. This can be the result of plugged sewer lines to the tank, a plugged
inlet or outlet pipe, a full septic tank, or a failed drain field.
odors occur in the house, above the tank and drain field, or escape from
the vent pipe. If the system is operating properly, there should be no
odors. If there are odors, it can be an early warning sign that the system
the components of your system can be difficult. Note where your drain pipe
leaves the house; this will point you in the direction of the septic tank.
A search in this area may reveal the septic tank inspection ports and shallow
depressions marking the trenches. Unfortunately, the tank is usually unmarked.
If you can not find any signs of your system, the local Health Department
might have your building records on file. (In winter months, the tile lines
and septic tank are usually the last place frost forms, and the first place
snow melts in your yard.) Once you locate an unmarked tank, place a marker
in the ground above the inspection ports and clean out manhole cover. Or,
measure their exact distances from at least two reference points (such
as a tree and the corner of the house) so you can easily find them again.
water. Fix leaks and drips. If you replace old fixtures, install new "low
flow" types. Do not overload the system -- this is the primary cause of
system failures. Early morning and bedtime are peak water use times in
the bathroom. Run dishwashers and washing machines at other times of the
day. Don't do all the family laundry in one day.
not use a garbage disposal or dump coffee grounds in the sink. Increasing
the load of solids into the tank decreases the capacity and shortens the
interval between pumpings.
not pour fats and oils down the drain. They can build up and clog the septic
paper towels, tissue, cigarette butts, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins,
tampons and other material in a trash can, not the toilet.
do NOT need to add any commercial products or yeast to your system.
Additives do not improve how well your system works. There are always plenty
of natural bacteria available to do the job. (They come from YOUR digestive
system.) In fact, additives can damage your system by breaking up the sludge
and scum layers, causing them to flush out of the tank and clog the infiltration
bed. Additives that say "Never worry about pumping your septic tank again"
are the worst!
normal amounts of detergents, bleaches, drain cleaners, household cleaners
and other products. Avoid dumping solvents like dry cleaning fluid, pesticides,
photographic chemicals, paint thinner, or auto products down the drain.
down spouts and runoff away from the septic field to avoid saturating the
area with excess water. Dense grass cover and other shallow rooted plants
are beneficial over a septic field. However, do not plant trees because
large plant roots can clog or break the pipes.
compacting the soil over the infiltration area. Do not drive or park vehicles
over the area and don't build a shed or driveway in this area. These activities
can also crack pipes or cause the distribution box to settle unevenly,
meaning that effluent will only flow into part of the drain field.
need to be pumped every two to five years, depending on use. If the tank
gets too full, particles of scum or sludge will flush out of the tank.
This material will clog the drain tiles and cause the septic system to
a licensed professional (listed in the phone book under "septic tank cleaners")
to pump the waste out of your tank. The tank should be pumped out through
the manhole, not the smaller inspection ports. The tank should be cleaned
completely, leaving nothing in the tank. Make sure the baffles are inspected
and that the tank is checked for leaks.